An estimated 15 million Americans are afflicted with dysphagia, a condition that causes discomfort or difficulty swallowing. It’s most severe when patients entirely lose their ability to eat. Dysphagia is a secondary complication from many conditions including stroke, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, mouth or throat cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS) and several other degenerative and muscular conditions.
Dysphagia is prevalent in most medical centers and many have a larger number of patients with dysphagia than they may realize. In just the patient population suffering from stroke, the 1999 Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) evidence-based practice report, suggests that almost 75 percent of hospitalized patients who have suffered a stroke will experience dysphagia. The enormity of the problem is expected to escalate as “baby-boomer” age and the onset of swallowing difficulties begins to manifest itself in greater numbers of the population. Dysphagia affects the elderly with an estimated half of all rest home residents afflicted.
Training muscles to function again
VitalStim Therapy uses small electrical currents to stimulate the muscles responsible for swallowing. At the same time, trained specialists help patients “re-educate” their muscles through rehabilitation therapy.
- A small, carefully calibrated current is delivered by specially designed electrodes.
- The current stimulates motor nerves in the throat.
- The muscles responsible for swallowing contract.
- The quality of the swallowing function improves.
- With repeated therapy, muscles are re-educated.
Starting VitalStim Therapy
To initiate VitalStim Therapy your physician must prescribe this service. Upon receipt of the referral, our staff will arrange an appointment for you or your loved one to be evaluated by our Speech Language Pathologist, who will then determine the course of treatment. For more information, contact the therapy department at Fayette County Hospital and The Wellness Complex at 618-283-5548. We look forward to discussing our services with you.